A Good Night’s Sleep

sleep

The science of sleep is often mentioned in the media, with willing victims having their sleep observed or deprived in dedicated sleep clinics. The difficulty for researchers is that sleep is controlled by the brain, and scientists are still trying to understand how the brain works!

Sleep is a natural and necessary state which we all need to experience in order for our bodies to function. While asleep, we have reduced consciousness, experience far less sensory activity and nearly all voluntary muscles are inactive.  This reduction in activity allows our bodies to devote more energy to maintain and repair areas such as the immune, nervous and musculoskeletal systems and allows time for the brain to rest and help store memories. How much sleep a person needs varies and also depends on factors such as season and age. 7 to 9 hours seems to be right for most people. The key measure of whether we are getting enough sleep is whether or not we wake feeling refreshed.

REM (rapid eye movement) sleep accounts for 20-25% of total sleep time. It is during REM that dreaming occurs, muscles are least active and the brain consumes more oxygen than when we are awake. Without REM sleep, our ability to learn complex tasks is greatly decreased. We sleep in cycles (usually around 5 per night) and arrive at REM approximately every 90 minutes. The rest of sleeping time is taken up by NREM (non rapid eye movement) sleep which is divided into 3 varying stages of consciousness between wakefulness and slow-wave sleep.

At Woodland Herbs, we have many customers asking for options to help them with their sleeping difficulties. Insomnia affects 30% of us at some point during our lifetime, and for some it can be a complaint that lasts for many years. Whether you are insomniac, jet lagged, or just have a temporary sleep issue there are many natural remedies that may help you to achieve a good night’s rest.

In the shop we generally ask a couple of questions to help find out the reasons for sleeplessness and then the appropriate remedy for the individual.

1)  What is the main issue: Do you have difficulty falling asleep or are you waking up through the night?

People who have difficulty falling asleep may be greatly affected by: environmental factors such as the room not being dark enough or too much noise, too much caffeine, or anxiety! Resolving this may be simple: wearing an eye mask or getting thicker curtains can increase the melotonin levels (see below), or replacing coffee with a non-caffeinated herbal tea, such as limeflower or lemon balm. Insomnia due to anxiety has a number of traditional remedies. Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) calms an active mind, available in dried herb, tablet or A. Vogel tincture, it is particularly useful if you are finding it difficult to fall asleep due to thoughts turning over and over in their mind. The herbs hops (Humulus lupus) and Californian Poppy (Eschlotzia californica) are sedative and can also help with getting to sleep. The essential oils of Lavender or Roman Chamomile can also be helpful, helping to calm nerves, soothe an active worrying mind and relax the body. A couple of drops on a tissue on your pillow should be enough to aid restful sleep. Watch out though too much can be over stimulating!

Anxiety can also be a factor if you are waking through the night, especially if you wake with worries immediately on your mind. If this is the case use any of the remedies listed above. Other solutions for waking through the night can be distinguished by asking the next question…

 

2) If you wake during the night, what is the first thing you do, see or feel?

Understanding the factors which are contributing to insomnia can help find options to help. For example:

  • Often people wake in the night because they need to go to the toilet. This may suggest a urinary system problem and the right remedy will depend on the situation.
  • Waking due to either overheating or feeling cold would suggest a temperature control issue, cold sage (Salvia officinalis) tea may be appropriate if overheating is the problem or maybe an extra blanket if too cold.
  • Restless legs, muscle cramps and pain can also disturb sleep. Magnesium or calcium supplements or massaging magnesium oil may help with the restless legs and muscle cramps. Pain will need specific treatments.
  • Disturbances such as the light of dawn or an ambulance siren going past can affect sleep and heavier curtains, changing beds or even rooms can be a solution.

Stress can also be a factor for waking through the night. B Vitamins may be appropriate to reduce the build up of stress through the day, or the herb valerian (Valeriana officinalis) has been shown to physically relax the muscles as well as promote a deeper sleep.

Circadian Rhythm

Our bodies have a special mechanism to control physical, mental and behavioural activities based on day-time and night-time, called the circadian rhythm, which normally follows a 24 hour cycle. This rhythm affects many aspects of our bodily functions, for example: temperature, hormone release, digestion, sleeping and waking. Circadian rhythms are controlled by hormones within the body (e.g. melatonin), but are also influenced by the external environment such as light. The observation of these rhythms dates back to 13th century medical texts.

Circadian rhythms are very important in determining sleep patterns. An increase of melatonin makes us tired, this increase in melatonin can be triggered by a reduction of light (usually at night time). This means if you are a shift worker you may need to have good curtains in order to get a good sleep. Although supplemental melatonin is not available for sale in the UK, 5-HTP is available as supplement, and the body can convert 5-HTP into serotonin, which has a tranquilising effect, and can be converted into melatonin.

Other things to consider to help sleep

-  Avoid stimulants in the evening e.g. coffee, tea, sugar, watching exciting/violent TV programmes.

- Try not to eat your evening meal after 7pm.

- Do something relaxing before bedtime e.g. a relaxing herb infused bath, drink a relaxing herbal tea  such as lavender, limeflower (Tilea spp), German Chamomile (Matricaria recutica) or Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), or relax with a book or music.

- Have a regular bedtime/waking routine, allowing body clock to get used to timings.

- Snoring or blocked nasal passages can interfere with sleep, and remedies are available to help both these.

L-Theanine, an extract of green tea, is often used to improve concentration as it calms and focuses the mind, and studies suggest it can enhance the quality of sleep (increasing time spent in REM and slow-wave sleep without increasing overall sleeping time) as it allows the mind to relax.

- Some people can find ancient treatments of acupuncture or shiatsu beneficial for insomnia.

Jet Lag

Jet Lag occurs because the body’s circadian rhythm is not synchronised with a new time. When our bodies travel through time zones, we gain or lose hours of the day and it takes time for our body clocks to adjust. Jet lag can make us feel groggy, tired and often disorientated. Some herbs used during the day to stay awake may help to normalise the body clock : Korean Ginseng (Panax ginseng) or Siberian Ginseng (Eleuitherococcus senticossus), Gotu kola (Centella asiastica) and Garlic. Going for walk or spending time outside can also help your system to adjust. Rosemary essential oil is stimulating both physically and psychologically and can help with feelings associated with jet lag. Some people can find 5-HTP helps them fall asleep more readily when arriving in their new country.
Cautions and Contraindication: While a lack of sleep is linked to tiredness, tiredness can also be a risk factor for high blood pressure, diabetes and a number of other conditions (e.g. sleep apnea).  If you are unsure why you are tired talk to a professional.

If you have existing medical condition, are taking prescriptions or are pregnant or breastfeeding please consult a Doctor or medical herbalist for professional advice before using the remedies suggested here.

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Cleanse and Revitalise

Cleanse & Revitalise

Finally it feels like winter has left! After a long, dark winter in which we’ve been eating heavier meals to keep warm, and generally doing less exercise than is perhaps good for us, it’s no surprise that we might be feeling a little run down. Now, as the days are longer and milder, and fresh fruit and veg is more available, is the time to think about preparing for a detox; not the depths of January when all we want to do is snuggle
under a duvet.

Many writers believe that a yearly detox isn’t an optional extra only undertaken by health zealots, but should be done to some degree by everyone. They suggest that stress, modern living and convenience meals can lead to poor assimilation of food and the inefficient elimination of waste products and unwanted materials from the body. This accumulation of waste products (often termed “toxins”) is then implicated in many conditions, from arthritis and allergies to diabetes and depression. If you have prolonged problems with cellulite, smelly feet, sour breath, frequent colds, urinary infections, catarrhal congestion, bloating or fatigue, it’s possible your system needs a flush out. By detoxing, the body will be more able to remove these toxins, and to keep itself in healthy balance again.

The aim of detox programmes or techniques is to expel toxins that may have built up in the main organs responsible for cleansing the body – the intestines, liver, kidneys and skin. In a sense, you can think of it like descaling the washing machine or the shower head – there comes a point when the cleaning equipment itself needs cleaned!

A programme intended to help cleanse organs typically involves some element of fasting, but fasting doesn’t necessarily mean going hungry for days. Fasting has a long historical tradition, with Lent and Ramadan two of the best known, and even now new fasting techniques such as the 5:2 diet are being investigated for their beneficial effects on the body. Fasting can mean eating small amounts of simple foods rather than not eating at all, allowing the body to concentrate on elimination rather than assimilation.

If undertaken sensibly, short-term fasting can effectively help the body concentrate on cleansing and detoxing. A popular way to fast is the fruit fast where one fruit is chosen, eg grapes, to replace meals. Instead of breakfast, lunch and dinner, a filling portion of the fruit is eaten, and water is drunk through the day. Any fasting days should only be undertaken when you have minimal demands on you and you have ample opportunity to rest, relax and do simple, gentle activities such as stretching and taking a bath. For best results, precede and follow your short fast with a one to two day cleansing diet where you cut out stimulants, starches, meats, alcohol, sugar, wheat and dairy and try to eat as much fresh, raw or lightly cooked vegetables, fruits, seeds and pulses as you can. During your detox, don’t be surprised to feel a bit worse before you feel better, due to the release of toxins. You can minimise this by starting your detox gently over a longer period and drinking plenty of water and cleansing herbal teas.

Easy detox: simple, drama-free techniques for a spring-fresh you

Although fasting can form part of a detox program you could just make some changes for a simple detox. How rigorously you detox is for you to decide, taking into account your state of physical and mental health, other demands on your time and energy, and what your diet and lifestyle is like at the moment. Broadly the more stressful your life, the more stimulants you use and the more processed food you eat, the slower and gentler your detox should be. Try incorporating a couple of the tips below into your life and take it from there.

- Drink 1 1/2 litres of water a day, but not with meals as it dilutes the digestive juices. Often hot water can satiate the urge for a coffee or traditional tea.

- Plan your meals so there are three times as much vegetables as protein or carbohydrates
on your plate.

- If you do need to buy the odd ready meal, look for the ones with the most ‘real’ ingredients and the least amount of additives.Better still, make your own ready meals by batch cooking and freezing.

- Liven up your food with herbs and spices rather than lashings of salt and rich sauces.

- Don’t eat while you’re working, in a rush or are upset. Sit down at a table, switch off all devices and focus on eating. Chew your food well to stimulate saliva production and so help digestion. You’ll enjoy your food more, feel fuller and are less likely to experience bloating.

- The water and the fibre in the plant foods you’re eating should help your bowels move

daily, encouraging the expulsion of waste instead of hanging around inside your guts. If this isn’t happening, try a gentle laxative or take a couple of teaspoons of Psyllium Husk in plenty of water before bed. – Aid digestion further and help cleanse the liver and kidneys by beginning and ending the day with a drink of hot water and fresh lemon juice. Try adding grated fresh ginger, which is especially helpful if you’re suffering from a cold, flatulence, indigestion or nausea. Try eating more lemons and ginger in your food in general: both are helpful and considered “cleansing” foods.

- If possible, try to support local greengrocers rather than the supermarket giants. A shopkeeper worth her or his salt will know their suppliers and may have some influence in terms of the use of pesticides etc. If you can’t afford to buy organic, consider peeling/scrubbing and rinsing food to help reduce residue. A dedicated nail brush is ideal for this!.

- The majority of toxins are metabolised in the liver, one of the body’s most important organs. It functions rather like the sewage plant of our bodies, neutralising pollutants and waste products. Milk Thistle (Carduus mariannus) supports liver health by reducing the depletion of glutathione, an amino acid-like compound essential for the detoxification process.
Milk Thistle has a powerful antioxidant effect and also promotes the regeneration of liver cells. Milk Thistle is available in capsule form from Solgar, in tincture form with Artichoke and Dandelion in Vogel’s Milk Thistle Complex and in the actual seeds of the plant. Rather than making a tea, the seeds are best ground up or chewed as some of the beneficial components aren’t very water soluble.

Cautions and Contraindications: Fasting should only be undertaken under professional guidance if you are currently dealing with a lot of stress, are pregnant, breast-feeding, frail, unwell or under the age of 12. If you have any long term condition, check with your herbalist or GP first as they may advise that you need a specifically nourishing fast.

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Getting Older

Getting Older

AgeingHow we age isn’t an entirely inevitable process.  Still, there is no agreement on the definitive reason why some people continue to be relatively healthy into their nineties while others appear frail much earlier. Most writers agree that genetics, lifestyle, environment, economic, cultural and social factors all play a part in how we age, but more research is needed into the precise interplay of these factors.

Many of these issues were explored in a recent documentary called Immortal? A Horizon Guide To Ageing in which Johnny Ball reviewed 45 years of BBC science programmes on discoveries about the ageing process.  The veteran presenter found no consensus on exactly why we grow old but instead offered an overview of the dominant theories of ageing, including:

Immunosenescence. Most associated with pioneering 1960s gerontologist Roy Walford, the theory links ageing to a gradual deterioration of the immune system, which Walford called  ‘immunosenescence’.  Many subsequent studies have shown a link between immune dysfunction and various conditions associated with ageing.

Shortening telomeres. Telomeres are found at the end of chromosomes (coiled strands of DNA found in every living cell).  When a cell divides, the telomeres are believed to act as a buffer, protecting the DNA from the division process. After a certain number of divisions, the telomeres can no longer protect the DNA and the cell dies. There has been much attention given to this theory in recent years, but the research doesn’t yet account for the fact that the cells in many of our organs (eg brain, heart) do not divide, or why, as Swedish researchers found in 2009, some people’s telomeres actually lengthen as they get older.

Oxidation. A process in which electrons from a substance are transferred to what is known as an ‘oxidising agent’.  Oxidisation processes are critical for normal cell function and occur all day, every day, but produce ‘free radicals’, an excess of which can cause damage to DNA and proteins.  Antioxidants react with free radicals to neutralise them.

Glycation. Glycation is the result of a sugar molecule bonding with  another molecule such as a protein. Glycation disrupts normal metabolic pathways and results in the formation of damaging ‘advanced glycosylation end-products’ (AGEs).  The formation of AGEs increases with consistently high or widely fluctuating blood sugar levels. Expect more mainstream focus on glycation in the coming months and years, especially as more research is done into the potential of natural substances such as cinnamon, black pepper, ginger, cumin, and green tea for preventing AGEs.

Ten tips for staying young at heart

1. Find peace. Whether it’s meditation, gardening, painting or a personal spiritual practise, enjoy mental relaxation every day.  This doesn’t mean just watching TV.  A study by the University of Maryland analysing data over 30 years found a strong association between high levels of TV viewing and self-reported unhappiness (Robinson & Martin, 2008).

2. Eat the rainbow.  Though energy requirements fall as we age, our need for nutrients increases.  Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables are bursting with free-radical scavenging nutrients (antioxidants).  Eat a wholesome, varied diet and cook from scratch if you can.  Not only is it usually healthier on your body and pocket, cooking can be fun and rewarding, especially if you have a friend over.

3. Eat the Rainbow Trout. In recent years, much attention has been given to the importance of Omega 3 fatty acids.  These are substances that the body cannot manufacture but which are needed for normal body metabolism. Omega 3s have applications in neurological, cardiological and immune system health, and are of major importance to eye and brain health.  Though there are some plant sources such as flaxseeds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds , much higher values are to be found from oily fish such as trout, salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna and herring.  Eat regularly and/or try supplementing with a good quality purified oil such as Quest’s Marine Omega 3.

4. Nurture relationships. A recent paper linked face-to-face social interaction with improved health and well-being, Sigman A et al, 2009.  The author noted that those with more social support appear to have more efficient immune function and that just 10 minutes of social interaction a day can improve cognitive perfomance.

5. Drink water. Just because you’ve heard it a thousand times doesn’t make it any less true. (The same goes for the one about quitting smoking!)  Clean, uncaffeinated water is essential for digestive and joint comfort, and countless body processes.  Sipping warm water throughout the day also helps to keep you warm.

6. Use your freedom. If you’re now free from the shackles of employment and a young family, use your new-found freedom.  Volunteer for a charity close to your heart, and get out and visit local shops and amenities such as libraries, museums and leisure centres.  If travel is an issue, consider car-sharing or joining a car club. 

7. Be your own health advocate. Find out the best foods to eat and supplements to take for you. Learn about how techniques such as TaiChi, the Alexander Technique and therapies such as Shiatsu, Herbalism and others could also help you.

8. Keep active. Even a modest amount of activity such as walking to the shops, taking the stairs and taking the dog to the park can benefit heart health, circulation and bone density. That’s not all; a recent study found regular exercise to be as effective as medication in improving symptoms of depression.

9. Get gutsy! Helpful bacteria (pro-biotics), are constantly fighting off would-be invaders in our intestines and are an essential part of our immune system.  The amount of good bacteria dips as we age, so supplementation is often a good idea.

10. Value your tenure. Whatever your particular life experiences, you will have witnessed a lot over the years and are a smarter, tougher cookie for it all.  Celebrate that and be fearless.  There are plenty of great books out there on ageing positively, such as John Lane’s The Art of Ageing: Inspiration for a Positive and Abundant Life.

Five Supplements to Consider Taking

New anti-aging products regularly appear on the market.  If we were to take them all, chances are our cupboards would be full and our bank accounts empty.   A professional such as a Medical Herbalist will be able to offer you expert individual advice. Here are just five popularly chosen items that are commonly said to contribute to healthy ageing:

1. Fish oils Many studies have linked the Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oils to a reduction of symptoms in various inflammatory conditions and a reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease.  Low levels of these fatty acids have been associated with lower mood, memory loss, visual problems and other conditions of the nervous system.  Fish oils have a blood-thinning effect, so always consult your health professional if you take Warfarin or other anti-coagulants.

2. Antioxidants. Antioxidants react with damaging free radicals to neutralise them. Solgar’s Advanced Antioxidant Formula contains substances needed for the production of Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), a powerful antioxidant compound generated by the body.

3. Probiotics. Believe it or not, a healthy gut contains up to 1kg of good bacteria (probiotics).  Probiotics provide compounds essential to immune health, healthy digestion and help make the intestines inhospitable places for pathogenic (‘bad’) bacteria, parasites and yeasts. As we age, the levels of probiotics naurally decrease, so it’s worthwhile considering a good quality supplement.

4. CoQ10 is essential to the mitochondria (the ‘power plants’ or ‘batteries’) of every single living cell.  As we age levels can decline so supplementation may be useful.  See our November 2012 newsletter for more information on CoQ10.

5. B Vitamins are needed for many physical processes, including the production of energy and the health of the nervous system. B6 and B12 have been of particular interest in relation to cognitive function and emotional wellbeing and in 2010 researchers from Oxford University, (Smith et al, 2010 ) found that supplementation with these vitamins and folic acid (also known as folate or B9) reduced brain shrinkage in subjects by an average of 30%.

Bibliography:
Baggio E, Italian multicenter study on the safety and efficacy of coenzyme Q10 as adjunctive therapy in heart failure, Molecular Aspects of Medicine, 15, 1994, s287-94
Blumenthal et al, Exercise and Pharmacotherapy in the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder,  Psychosomatic Medicine, Sep 2007, 69(7)587-96
Nordfjäll K et al, The Individual Blood Cell Telomere Attrition Rate Is Telomere Length Dependent. PLoS Genetics, February 13, 2009
Passwater R,Lipoic Acid: The Metabolic Antioxidant,  Keats Publishing, Los Angeles, 1996Robinson JP & Martin S. What do happy people do? Social Indicators Research, December 2008, v89 n3, p565-571
Sigman A et al, Well Connected? The Biological Implications of Social Networking, Biologist, Feb 2009, v56, 14-20
Smith AD et al, Homocysteine-Lowering by B Vitamins Slows the Rate of Accelerated Brain Atrophy in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Randomized Controlled Trial, PLoS ONE, Sep 2010, Vol 5, Issue 9, e12244
Walford, R, The Immunologic Theory of Aging, The Gerontologist, 1964, vol 4 pp 195-197
Garlic, QuestHealthLibrary.com Accessed 28 October 2012

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An effective treatment for Frozen Shoulder?

Brian has been a Bowen therapist for over a decade

Bowen and Emmett Technique therapist Brian Murphy talks about his experiences treating this painful condition

Frozen shoulder – medically referred to as ‘adhesive capsulitis’ is a disorder in which the connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint becomes inflamed and stiff, resulting in pain and restricted movement.

There can be many reasons for the onset of shoulder pain, and in some people this initial complaint leads to a chronic condition with loss of function and resulting stiffness.  This happens because the initial pain causes a reluctance to use the shoulder and so the shoulder begins to ‘freeze’.

Because of this, some people become unable to perform simple tasks like washing or putting on clothing.

Conventional medical treatment might consist of anti-inflammatory medication, cortisone injections, physiotherapy and possible surgery to manipulate the joint under anaesthetic.

‘This is such a common problem and one that results in frustrating debilitation for its sufferers,’ says Brian Murphy, Bowen and Emmett Technique therapist at Woodland Herbs.  ‘There has been research carried out by the European College Of Bowen Studies that showed that Bowen therapy was statistically significant in improving this condition compared to a placebo group.’

‘Overall there was a significant increased movement of the arm particularly flexion (lifting the arm out in front) and abduction (lifting it to the side) and a marked reduction in pain.’

Brian says that the findings of the study support his own experience with clients with this condition, ‘I find that not only is there generally a rapid positive change but that change is sustainable.’

Bowen and Emmet Techniques consist of a series of gentle rolling moves over muscle and connective tissue

Both the Bowen Technique and Emmett Technique are remedial and holistic forms of ‘hands-on’ bodywork which are suitable for all ages and body types. No manipulation and no force is used. The practitioner works on precise points of the body to stimulate the muscles, soft tissue and energy within the body.  These careful moves prompt the body’s own healing response to reset imbalances and so promote relief of pain and recovery of energy.  A wide range of complaints can be helped with these techniques, from chronic conditions such as asthma, MS and ME to more acute problems such as sports injuries and whiplash. The experience of a treatment is gentle, subtle and very relaxing.  The body normally responds quickly to Bowen and Emmett, making them a cost and clinically effective treatment option.

Brian Murphy practises Bowen and Emmett on Thursdays from 1.30pm to 9pm, and sessions cost £40.  Call 0141 564 3184 to make your appointment.

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Top tips to bust stress…naturally

Don't let stress make you feel alone

Though a little stress can be positive in motivating us to achieve goals and change parts of our lives we don’t like, there’s widespread agreement that too much is certainly NOT a good thing.  Indeed, stress is being implicated in an increasing number of ailments and illnesses, both physical and mental.  But when stress and stressful things appear to be all around us, what can we do to beat feeling frazzled – naturally?  Read on to find out.

Firstly though, what happens when we’re stressed?

Stress interferes with homeostasis, the self-regulating process by which the body maintains a stable, constant internal environment. When the body is subject to a ‘stressor’ (something which provokes a stress response, whether this is a loud noise or the swirl of thoughts in your head), its first reaction is to prepare for danger.  The adrenal glands secrete cortisol and adrenaline until a state of physiological arousal is reached whereby the person can fight with or flight from the perceived danger.  Pupils dilate, breathing and heart rates rise and digestion stops. This response was helpful back when humans spent much of their time hiding from wild animals, but perhaps less so when we’re stuck in traffic in 2012.

Such feelings can often lead to people ‘self-medicating’ with alcohol, food, tobacco or drugs and chronic stress is associated with conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, OCD and panic attacks which negatively impact on a person’s quality of life.  So how can we learn to manage stress naturally?

First off, remember that there are no genuine quick fixes; learning to create and maintain balance is an on-going process throughout one’s life.  Think of it as nurturing yourself in the same way a gardener would tend to a special plant.

- Learn to think differently.  Stress isn’t so much to do with the outside world, but our response to it. NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) can be very helpful in reframing life situations in more positive and less overwhelming ways.

- Don’t be all thrill and no chill.  Make 20 minutes of relaxation every day as part of your health regime, as essential cleaning your teeth.  Try a variety of techniques such as Tai Chi, meditation and self-massage until you find what you like best.

- Ditch the coffee for herbal alternatives.  If you’re feeling stressed, a caffeine hit is certainly not going to calm and often makes symptoms of anxiety worse. Many herbs have soothing qualities when drunk as a tea, particularly the pleasant-tasting ones such as Chamomile, Limeflower and Lemon Balm.  Pre-blended loose teas such as Four Flower (Chamomile, Lavender, Rose and Limeflower) and Rose and Lavender are pleasurable both in the teapot and in the bath!

- If you struggle to get through the day without some caffeine, drink more tea than coffee.  Tea (especially green tea) may contain caffeine, but it also contains theanine, an amino acid helpful for alleviating stress.  Theanine is now available in capsule form from Solgar.

- Ask for help.  Consider meeting a counsellor or therapist for unbiased, professional support. We are now lucky enough to have a counsellor, Francesca Howell, at Woodland Herbs. Your health professional can likely recommend a counsellor in your area. Counsellors are trained in tried and tested ways to cope productively with tricky life situations such as family problems or work pressures.

- Exercise. Whether it’s a brisk walk to the park or a long-distance run, exercise increases blood and oxygen to the brain and triggers the release of feel-good endorphins.

- Learn to say No.  Remember that we don’t have to do everything we’re asked and it doesn’t mean we’re selfish.  In fact, learning to say no (nicely!) can be a responsible act.  If we run ourselves so ragged that we make ourselves ill, what use are we to anyone?

- Make bath and bedtime special.  Have a routine that you find nurturing and relaxing.  If it means banning phones and computers after a certain hour, DO IT. The world will still be there in the morning.  Make this your special time; you deserve it.

- Use Essential Oils.  Many essential oils are calming (eg Lavender) or uplifting (eg Bergamot) or help promote a feeling of being ‘grounded’ (eg Cedar or Sandalwood).  Use them in the bath, in soap stone burners, on tissues to inhale during the day or use diluted (1 drop to 2mls of carrier such as Grapeseed or Sweet Almond oil) for self-massage.  For an accessible, handy guide that won’t break the bank, try Christine Westwood’s Aromatherapy A Guide For Home Use.

- There are a wide range of therapies that different people find helpful during periods of stress.  Massage is a very popular way of de-stressing, and many also use therapies such as Acupuncture, Medical Herbalism, Reflexology and Reiki to relax and unwind.

Don’t suffer alone. Always see your health professional if you have pronounced or prolonged symptoms of stress.

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What happened to my tinctures?

Making your own tinctures needn't be difficult

One of the effects of the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (2004/24/EC) is that we’re no longer allowed to sell tinctures over the counter for internal use.  Though appropriate herbal tinctures can still be accessed on prescription after a consultation with a Medical Herbalist (link).  While this new regime has benefits (eg as well as offering expert advice, the herbalist will identify the correct herbs and dose for each individual) the Directive can be frustrating to people who’ve grown used to buying their own tinctures unimpeded.

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to make your own tinctures at little cost.  In fact, it’s so simple that once you’ve done it, you’ll be such a master that you’ll be spreading the technique to your friends and family!

What is a tincture?

A tincture is an alcoholic extract of a substance.  In herbal medicine, this substance is some form of plant material, such as leaves, roots or flowers, and tinctures are usually made with 25% alcohol, although 45% and 90% concentrations exist too.  Many find tinctures convenient as they can deliver a more precise dose than a tea and they are often easier to take, especially if the taste isn’t the loveliest or there isn’t ready access to tea-making facilities.

Tincture strengths normally range from one third of herb to the alcohol solution (1:3) down to one tenth of herb to alcohol solution (1:10).  The most common strength is 1:5, meaning that 1ml of the tincture is roughly equivalent to 5g of the herb.  Alcohol is used because of its powers of extraction and preservation – a tincture can be kept for many years.  If you don’t wish to use alcohol, glycerin may be used, though in general a weaker and less preserved tincture will result.

What do I need?

The easiest type of alcohol to use for a home made tincture is vodka because of its high alcohol content and neutral flavour. With vodka it is fairly easy to make a 25% tincture with fresh herbs (remember that the water in the herb will reduce the alcohol percentage of the overall tincture), or a 45% tincture with dried herbs.

To make a tincture, add the herb into a clean container (such as a glass jar), cover with alcohol and leave in a cool, dark place for around 3 weeks.  Shake the bottle each day. After a few weeks the alcohol should have changed colour.  Strain off the herb using a muslin cloth or a coffee filter, bottle in an opaque bottle and store in a cool dark place away from children and animals.  It’s always worthwhile labeling the bottle with a note of the date and what’s in it.

And that’s it!

Hold on – what about quantities?

To make half a litre of lavender tincture (strength 1:5, alcohol 45%) use 100 gm dried lavender flowers and 500 ml of vodka. Only use enough herb for the vodka to cover, you may have to use 50 gm initially and then repeat the process with the other 50 gm.

And fresh herbs?

For fresh herbs you will need a larger weight of herb due to the water content. For instance to make marigold tincture (strength 1:5, alcohol 25%) use about 200 gm of marigold flowers and 500 ml of tincture. With fresh herbs it is very likely the process will need to be done twice. Another way to make a strong tincture is to grind the herbs down before adding the alcohol, that way more herbs can be fitted into the jar.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, are on any medication or have a medical condition, always consult a healthcare practitioner before taking any dietary supplement or herbal remedy.

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Classes and Course Program 2012

We have just published our program of classes and courses in our clinic in Glasgow for 2012. You can view the years classes on our new calender or you can view the different classes and courses in our online store. We will also be adding them to facebook shortly.

Highlights include our a wide range of talks on the first Thursday of each month. We have 2 “big Sunday’s of talks” where you can attend three different talks over an afternoon and a range of Sunday workshops including Indian Head Massage and Making Your Own remedies.

All the events are planned to take place at our clinic in Glasow. If you would like to attend any of the events please book, online, by phone or in store. There is a non-refundable payment to secure your space.

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Festive Opening Hours

Our Christmas 2011 opening hours are available at http://www.woodlandherbs.co.uk/acatalog/opening_hours.html A range of therapies will be available between Christmas and New Year. During December we have a special offer in the shop. If you spend £20 we will give you a lovely book of vouchers for each month in 2012, with savings of up to £150 available.

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Tinnitus: Scotland’s problem buzz

Many of us will have experienced a temporary buzzing or ringing in the years after a night out at a noisy nightclub or concert, particularly if you’ve found yourself close to the speakers.  For generations of teenagers, battle-hardened metallers and punks and hedonistic clubbers, how much noise a person can tolerate was often viewed as some sort of masochistic test of prowess.   Hopefully such attitudes are disappearing, however.  Take a look around next time you go to a gig; you may be surprised by the number of people wearing earplugs.  Still, with the seeming omnipresence of smart phones, mp3 players, tablets and other mobile devices often comes the heavy use of earphones.  If you traveled by public transport recently, chances are that you were treated to crackling excerpts from someone else’s choice of music.  Such a problem has kept writers to newspapers busy since the introduction of the Sony Walkman, but the ear buds of today seem more dangerous than the fuzzy headsets worn by the likes of Cliff Richard in his Milton Keynes-shot Wired For Sound video.  Often with little or no cushioning, ear buds let in a lot of environmental noise, with the listener pushing up the volume even higher to compensate.   Figures released by the Scottish Government last year estimated the number of people who consulted their doctor or practice nurse for tinnitus symptoms during the year 2008-2009 to be 13,001, compared to 10,526 during 2004-2005.

Tinnitus can be caused by natural hearing impairment as we age, congenital hearing loss, injury and certain conditions and can also be a side effect of some medications.  By far, the majority of cases are noise-induced, however.  With symptoms ranging from low-pitched hissing to high-pitched screeching, tinnitus can be particularly unpleasant for chronic sufferers, who often find it interferes with their sleep and daily activities.  Still, help is at hand, with many studies looking into the efficacy of Ginkgo Biloba and supplementing with certain vitamins and minerals such as a B12 and magnesium.  Next month on Thursday 3rd November, herbalist Anna Hill discusses the options available to manage this condition, as well as tips for self support and seeking professional help. A £6 non-returnable deposit secures your place. Call 0141 564 3184 or book online.

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September newsletter out!

Suffer from headaches?  Whether it’s tension headache or migraine, the September newsletter has plenty of tips on managing headpain naturally. Herbs, homeopathic remedies and essential oils are explored, as are other practical techniques and suggestions for soothing headaches without always reaching for yet another blister-pack of painkillers.

Also this month: did you know that Magnesium is needed for over 300 processes in the body?  Concerningly, many of us are deficient in this important mineral.  Herb of the month is September is Passionflower, which has surprisingly less to do with romantic ardour than sleep and relaxation.   And what exactly is Shiatsu?  Not to be confused with a pooch with silky locks, it’s a type of bodywork developed in Japan which is used to help a variety of ailments and conditions, from a frozen shoulder to a nervous tummy.  Sign up to future newsletters here, or mail us on enquiries@woodlandherbs.co.uk for a copy of September’s newsletter.

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